The complexities of dealing with radical Islam in Southeast Asia: a case study of Jemaah Islamiyah

Author/s (editor/s):

Brek Batley

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 149

The struggle against radical Islam in Southeast Asia has gathered momentum. The progress and conduct of the Bali bombers' trials in Denpasar have been remarkable. Regional security authorities have increased cooperation to locate and detain further suspected militants. Talk of joint-border patrols, regional terrorism centres, increased airport security, police training and new terrorism legislation are all forward steps in the fight against radical Islam in Southeast Asia. However, the challenges facing the region are far more complex. The attacks on the island of Bali, and more recently on the US-owned J W Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, were not isolated cases of irrational lunacy. The perpetrators were highly trained, highly motivated and truly believed in the righteousness of their actions. Such radicalism is not only based on selective Quranic interpretations, but also on a compost of political and social grievances, some of which are no longer solely regional in nature. Western policy, transnational crime, endemic corruption and stagnating economies are now as much to do with Islamic extremism as weapons smuggling and fundamentalist boarding schools. Using the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network as a case study, this paper comprehensively explores the range of problems facing Southeast Asia in the management of radical Islam.

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